21.2.06

It’s been a little while. The hand has made it clear that I shouldn’t have cut that big cabbage in half last week while making Orangette’s braised cabbage, but I have to say, it was almost worth it. Next time I’ll have Donna make that first cut, & next time is coming soon, because this cabbage was divinely comforting. Gas bills be damned, hot food pulled from the oven is infinitely more winter-perfect to me than almost anything you could do on the stovetop. Fortunately I was not stupid enough to attempt hefting the six-ton Le Creuset roasting dish in & out of the oven.

I had Donna repeat her weight-lifting last night for my first-ever macaroni & cheese. Wow, what a revelation! I’d never made mac & cheese before—unless you count Annie’s, which you shouldn’t, I mean I really don’t know why these two things are called by the same name—but, whatever. Not only have I never made it myself, I realized I’ve never eaten homemade mac & cheese from anybody anywhere. There was some kind of invisible, unconscious boundary between Outside & Inside; mac & cheese belonged to the Outside world of cafeterias & restaurants. It seems my friends & relatives all share in this division. Weird!

Until now! (Fanfare please….) I recently read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which among other things contains a detailed & mesmerizing description of a woman making macaroni & cheese. I happened to be very hungry while reading this section & instantly developed a serious jones for the rich stuff. Even then, though, it did not occurr to me to make it myself; instead I remembered that a friend had raved about the mac & cheese at a nearby deli, so vowed to go asap to satisfy my craving.

I couldn’t get there until yesterday; I was on the verge of buying a large hunk of it when Donna pointed out, “hey, it’s $7.49 a pound, why don’t we just make our own?” Oh. Duh. Of course. So, organic cheddar in hand, we walked on home & she hauled out the anvil Le Creuset.

My! What a tactile treat for the hands! First of all, the best way to butter a baking dish is with your fingers. Whee, fingerpainting! Then there’s spreading out the macaroni—your fingers are already all buttery, so why not just use your hands to pat the warm, squishy pasta into a level layer? Cool, fatty shredded cheese comes next, then another layer of al dente goodness. More cheese, then the roux. Wait! I must rant about roux: it’s been years since I made a roux. I don’t know why I have deprived myself in this horrible way, because the roux is pleasurable kitchen magic at its best. A little lump of butter melting in the pan, a little flour, whisk whisk whisk, pour in the innocent milk, whisk whisk & then poof! the most velvety, creamy, yummy, fragrant stuff you could ever lick off a whisk. (Okay, so maybe hot fudge sauce is good for that too.)

Anyway, the mac & cheese was bubbly & crusty & gooey. I consider my itch well scratched.

Now I’m going to disappear for a while more. Karen is coming to visit from Chicago.

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